O Aniki, Where Art Thou?

Something paradox (but to be expected) has happened. I was in Japan for two months, with one of the hopes of being there being able to obtain various information “on location” and writing about it, and yet I haven’t written a single post for this blog in that time.

Now I am back in Germany again and can only write retrospectively about what I have done there. And so it shall be.

I spent most of my time writing three seminar papers and working at my two research assistant positions. Doesn’t sound like vacation? Never said it was. And so I have been a lot at home sitting in front of my computer. But sometimes I went out and sat in a cafe – in front of my computer.

Picture #1. The interior of Gonpachi in Roppongi.

Picture #1. The interior of Gonpachi in Roppongi.

There were of course occasions to leave the house and not work. I have spent some very enjoybale evenings in an izakaya with people as enjoyable and funny, like the former police chief of the Hokkaido Prefectural Police and some professors of the University of Tokyo, one of whom will be going to Bonn this fall (the owner of the place is also a very nice and interesting person – one of his sons is an assisting director of the upcoming new Japanese Godzilla movie, シン・ゴジラ!); and 権八 Gonpachi, a place made famous by being the inspiration for the House of Blue Leaves in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2004). The atmosphere was in any case interesting (see Picture #1, left).

Picture #2. My soba!

Picture #2. My soba!

Furthermore, I participated in a so-called そば打ち体験 Sobauchitaiken where you make your own Soba noodles in about an hour (I wouldn’t call it a cooking course since the actual cooking consisted of putting the noodles in hot water for about a minute). I there noticed how hard it and challenging it is to make noodles for just four people – the professionals preapare noodles for up to 40 persons at once! Nevertheless, the noodles that I made with my own hands (see Picture #2, right) were very tasty.

But of course I couldn’t not travel while being in Japan. Two of the highlights of my recent trip to Japan were the longer walks along the historical 東海道 Tōkaidō (one of the three routes connecting 京都 Kyōto and 江戸 Edo) and my trip to 北海道 Hokkaidō. Where I walked 80 km on foot in the former of the two, I traveled across the country with the all-you-can-ride ticket of JR that is the 青春18きっぷ seishun-18 kippu in the latter.

北海道 Hokkaidō

On this 9-day trip – which made a dream I had for one and a half years come true –, I traveled from Tokyo to the 1200 km away 札幌 Sapporo. On this trip, which brought me through every prefecture of 東北 Tōhoku and Hokkaido, I traveled across the country for a distance of appr. 2300 km in total; on average, I was sitting in trains for six hours a day. All places to the North of 山形 Yamagata and 福島 Fukushima were new to me.

Starting with my first stop in 仙台 Sendai, I then traveled via 盛岡 Morioka (one night), 青森 Aomori, 函館 Hakodate (two nights) and 小樽 Otaru to Sapporo (one night). From there, I went back to Otaru and Hakodate (one night) to Aomori, from where I went to 弘前 Hirosaki and 秋田 Akita. After one night there, I spent my final two nights in two Onsen areas in Yamagata, where I started my way back home from 米沢 Yonezawa.

Because it would be too much were I to write about everything and even post pictures of every place I visited, there will just be three image posts with some photographic highlights of Hokkaido in the following days. For now, a teaser:



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